« ForrigeFortsett »
TaE evils attendant on a hurried outfit and departure, as is the usual man-of-war custom, were in no wise mitigated in the case of the Royal Naval Expedition, fitted out at Woolwich, in 1850, to search for Sir John Franklin's Squadron; and a general feeling of joy. at our departure prevailed amongst us, when, one fine morning, we broke ground from Greenhithe.
The “ Resolute” and “ Assistance” had a couple of steamers to attend upon them ; whilst we, the 66 Pioneer” and “ Intrepid," screwed and sailed, as requisite to keep company. By dark of the 4th of May, 1850, we all reached an anchorage near Yar: mouth; and the first stage of our outward journey
No better proof of the good feeling which animated our crews can be adduced than the unusual
fact of not a man being missing amongst those who had originally entered, --- not a desertion had taken place, --- not a soul had attempted to quit the vessels, after six months' advance had been paid.
Here and there amongst the seamen a half-sleepy indifference to their work was observable. This I imputed to the reaction after highly sentimental « farewells," in which, like other excesses, Jack delights; the women having, as usual, done all they could, by crying alongside, to make the men believe they were running greater risks than had ever been before undergone by Arctic navigators.
The old seamen's ditty of
66 We sailed by Fairlēe, by Beachẽy, and Dungěness,
Until the North Foreland light we did see
gives a very good idea of our progress from beacon to lighthouse, and lighthouse to headland, until the lofty coast of Yorkshire sunk under the lee; and by the 8th of May the squadron was making slow progress across the mouth of the Frith of Forth. Hitherto, “all had been pleasant as a marriage bell;" the weather had been fine; and we already calculated our days of arrival at different points, as if the calm was to last for ever. The Cheviot Hills glittered in the west; it was the kind good-bye of our own dear England. Hundreds of white sails
dotted a summer sea : all was joyous and sparkling. Scotland greeted us with a rough “nor’-wester," and away we went. “Not all the king's horses” could have kept the expedition together.
The “ Resolute” and “ Assistance," hauled dead on a wind, under close-reefed topsails, performed a stationary movement, called "pile-driving" by sailors, which, as the pilot suggested, would, if the breeze lasted, carry them to the coast of Holland. The two two steam-vessels, under fore-and-aft canvass, drew rapidly away to windward and ahead and in spite of all we could do, a few hours of darkness effectually succeeded in dispersing us. Accident again brought the “Pioneer" in sight of the vessels for a few hours; but the “Intrepid” found herself in Stromness Harbour, with a degree of celerity which gave rise to a racing disposition on the part of my gallant colleague, “Intrepid,” versus “Pioneer,” which it took a great many days of competition to decide.
They who want excitement had better go and beat a vessel up the Pentland Firth, against both wind and tide. I tried it, but shall not repeat the experiment; and, after a thorough good shaking in the North Sea, was not sorry to find myself at anchor in Stromness.
The very proper and triste sabbath of the North was followed by a busy Minday. The arrival of so many gold cap-bands, and profusion of gilt buttons, interfered, I fear materially, with the proper delivery of the morning milk and butter by sundry maidens with golden locks; and the purser's wholesale order for beef threatened to create a famine in the Orkneys. The cheapness of whiskey appeared likely to be the cause of our going to sea with a crew in a lamentable state of drunkenness, and rather prejudiced me against Stromness; but if it had no other redeeming quality, all its faults would be forgotten in the astounding fact that there may be found a landlady with moderate prices and really fresh eggs.
As a description of this part of the world is no part of my task, I will pass over our long and crooked walk about Stromness; and the failure of the good folk there to induce us to trust ourselves on their ponies for a ride to Kirkwall, naturally limited our knowledge of the neighbourhood.
Above the town of Stromness rises a conicalshaped hill; it has, I believe, been immortalised by Scott in his “Pirate :" it had yet deeper interest for me, for I was told that up it had toiled dear friends now missing with Franklin. I and a kind shipmate walked out one evening to make our pilgrimage to a spot hallowed by the visit of the gallant and truehearted that had gone before us --and, as amid wind and drizzle ve scrambled up the hill, I pictured to